Numerous labor, community and academic leaders — representing the local chapter of the AFL-CIO, the UCLA Labor Center, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and several other organizations — expressed their joint support for comprehensive immigration reform at a July 30 town hall meeting.“We have a great group of leaders here [to discuss] how we are going to win a path to citizenship, [to secure] freedom and justice and equality for everyone in our communities, because that’s what this immigration reform is all about,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and chair of the immigration committee for the national AFL-CIO.“Without a doubt, the labor movement has no higher priority in 2013 than to change the current immigration system to allow millions of people — who are already American — to become citizens with a piece of paper,” explained Durazo during her opening remarks at the mid-Wilshire area event. “We have been working very, very hard, together with faith groups, DREAMers, immigrant youth, the civil rights community, and … we even have Republicans for immigration reform.”On July 27, 14 Republicans were among the 68 who voted to pass the Senate immigration bill (S. 776), which would allow most of the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status and receive work permits after passing a background check and paying a fine, and after select border measures are implemented. The bill would also increase foreign worker visas for farm jobs, low-skilled work and for high-tech jobs.But, according to panelist Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the legislation has hit a roadblock in the House of Representatives, where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner have both said they would not bring the Senate bill to the floor for debate and vote. Instead, explained Wilkes, the House is expected to consider five or six separate smaller-scale bills in October, with possible passage of legislation anticipated for December.“We’re still in play, it’s still alive, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Wilkes. “We’re in a pitched battle, and this is where we need your help, because the only way we can win this is if they get a lot of calls, a lot of visits, a lot of postcards, a lot of letters — as much contact as you can make with your elected members; that is the best way we have a chance to win this.”Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, agreed that community leaders and everyday citizens alike must continue to organize and mobilize in order to “fight for immigration reform,” adding that “this is a huge uphill battle” that is worth waging.“The reality is that we have 11 million people living in this country who are completely stripped of any basic rights or dignity, and that is unconscionable,” said Wong. “The House has made it very clear that their intent is to block anything that President Obama supports and to undermine any piece of progressive legislation that will advance the interests of the vast majority in this country… We need to put a fire under the House to get them to act.“We need to build a broad-based movement for social change,” he continued. “We need to mobilize to stop the deportations, [and] to demand a just and equitable immigration system.”Connie Choi, staff attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles, believes that people making their voices heard — consistently and loudly — over the next few months have the power to turn the tide in the House, as they did during the 2012 presidential election. Among the minorities who voted last November, 73 percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama; polling shows that up to 82 percent of Asian Americans indicated that immigration played an important role in their voting decision.“I think that’s the reason why immigration reform is actually on the table this year, because last November minority communities really showed that they have power,” said Choi. “Hopefully this power will transfer; we’ve already seen it happen in the Senate. We are going to be continuing to fight in order to see this thing through… We really want to see immigration reform that’s fair and inclusive happen this year.”To make that happen, “we all need to be on all cylinders moving forward,” said Durazo.“Immigration reform is about those women working in the recycling facilities who have to sort trash every day, who have no rights, who have no clean facilities to eat, and every day they are treated worse than the trash that they sort,” she said. “Immigration reform is about changing their lives, so that they can come out and demand a higher standard of living.“We have not had this opportunity in decades and decades, to fundamentally change the system,” continued Durazo. “We have got to do everything in our capacity. Today is about knowing where we stand, knowing where we need to go, but, more importantly, it’s about everybody doing something more than we’ve already been doing. Now is the time to act.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0809/immigration/{/gallery}